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ISPreview Site Service Status Updates

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Mark.J

Administrator
Staff member
ISPreview Team
16/12/2013

Some of you might have noticed that the site has, at times, been a little unstable over the past 5 weeks. At first we thought this was faulty ram but it seems that a lot of Chinese spammers have instead been having fun trying to break through the anti-spam defences on our content system. The result is that our traffic has jumped well above normal levels and, even if they don't manage to post a comment, the extra load from each attempt is still difficult to tackle.

In order to manage this we’ve had to penalise some legitimate search engine traffic from non-UK countries to reduce critical load and then introduce a number of tougher server-level restrictions against country-specific IP ranges and known spam agents (robot IDs). As ever tackling spam remains a constant battle, much as it has always been. We seem to have got most of the problem under control now but it's something that we're always monitoring.

Otherwise most of our time is being spent upon the construction of new content and planning for various system upgrades (forum, jargon system etc.) next year. The next major update will be to our ISP Listings database first thing next year and we plan to add a few extras during that process.. but more on that later.

Hope you all have a good Christmas and a Happy New Year.
 

Mark.J

Administrator
Staff member
ISPreview Team
14/02/2014

Readers might notice our server operating a fair bit faster now because the recent efforts to tackle spam bots have removed a lot of "bad" traffic from the site. On top of that we've also just upgraded the dedicated server to a quad core system with double the amount of RAM, which should give us a lot more flexibility to start adding new features and interactivity (I've had a few things planned but we've not been able to do them yet due to issues of time and server resources).

Otherwise most of my time has been spent polishing off some new content as the Easter/Spring period is expected to be quite busy on that front. I expect to complete most of that shortly and then I can get back to a little R&D on the new systems/services, which I'll be revealing more about in the not too distant future.

Finally we've also done our usual ISP Listings database sweep and I added the line rental comparison that some of you requested last year. At present it's only a basic summary but that's largely because most ISPs make it difficult to find out even simple information, such as daytime call rates. Why they hide this I don’t know but it should be a requirement to make such info. transparent.
 

Mark.J

Administrator
Staff member
ISPreview Team
01/08/2014

Just realised I haven't posted a status update in quite some time, mostly because the fingers on these hands of mine have rarely left the keyboard (news articles take a lot of time) :).

So to recap.. prior to Easter was a bit of a nightmare because, as some of you might have spotted, our web server was suffering from a lot of sporadic outages. We ended up switching to a better server and spending a significant amount of time delaying our other plans in order to try and pin down the issue, which sadly didn't go away after the upgrade.

The web hosts felt confident that this was the fault of our software, yet Keith (he looks after that side more than me now) and I spent many weeks observing the logs and couldn't find where the issue might be coming from. In the end we pinned it down to the fact that the webhost had left our process limit set incredibly low (i.e. the host failed to set it higher after our upgrades) and putting this higher resolved crashes. Needless to say I wasn’t happy.

Since then we’ve updated the ISP listings database and enhanced the system with a few new features. Most recently we’ve also been preparing our content plans for winter and integrating more of the site into our CMS (you’ll slowly notice a lot of sub-pages are changing). We also found a way to revive several years’ worth of old news and are slowly putting that back into our archive for posterity.

Going forward the focus will be on content, further CMS integration, a new poll system, a new jargon system and most likely a move to xenforo as a vBulletin forum replacement. Longer term we’d like to bring the ISP listings and review system together and link them into the CMS, but that’s a major job and is still in the planning phase. We have various other plans too but I'd rather not mention those just yet.
 

Mark.J

Administrator
Staff member
ISPreview Team
04/08/2014

Just a small but important couple of things, which I forgot to mention above.

ISPreview.co.uk may be offline for a few hours on Sunday 17th August while the server is physically moved to a new datacentre. It doesn't take long to move the kit but it usually takes a little while for everything to come back to life once plugged in again.

Secondly, we're planning to erase some of the very oldest reviews for ISPs to keep the Top 10 more reflective of recent opinion. We had intended to add in a new algorithm that would exclude ancient reviews from the rating calculation but it's still not ready and so instead we'll go back to the old fashioned method of wipe and re-sync.

Note that smaller ISPs with only a handful of reviews or less won't be affected as we feel this would be unfair given the limited feedback.
 

Mark.J

Administrator
Staff member
ISPreview Team
11/05/2015

I'll admit to getting a bit lax with status updates lately, but most of my time has been consumed with writing content and fixing website problems :). Ah the joys of being a webmaster, there's always something that has to be done and I've never once had an empty to-do list.

Anyway at present I'm working on a rewrite and refresh of the 'ISP Complaints and Advice' section, which will bring it inside our current CMS style and polish things up a bit, as well as adding new content and reflecting recent industry changes. I hope to be finished with that soon.

After that we have the usual late-spring ISP Listing Database update to do and at the same time I'll be changing some of the site style and text sizes in order to make our content more mobile friendly. I had intended to be focusing on the forum change during this period, but Google's recent search engine change has pushed it up the to-do list.

Once all that is done we’ll be back to focusing on upgrades to all the big systems, from reviews to ISP listings and the discussion forum.
 

Mark.J

Administrator
Staff member
ISPreview Team
30/10/15

It's been a busy few months since the last status update. As planned we completed the ISP Complaints section refresh and ISP Listings database update, although I intend to run another update of our ISP list imminently as per our usual procedures.

On top of that we've just moved the server to a newer version of PHP 5.5 (5.6 will go live in December) and that meant I had to re-do the ageing Jargon Buster system as the old one wasn't compatible. I had originally planned to do that next year, but it turned out to be easier than expected so the work was finished this week. Now I just need to add some new content to it and update the terms.

The PHP upgrade also meant that we needed to fix a few bugs elsewhere and update our forum software to the latest version, which went without a hitch. I intend to make some further style changes to the forum going forward and still intend to swap to XenForo, but other work keeps getting in the way of that.

Next year looks set to be busy with preparing our systems for the jump to PHP7, which should give the website a big boost. I'll also try and fit a XenForo upgrade into that schedule and we'll be looking at starting some long-winded work to replace our old review system with something more modern. Further enhancements are also planned for the ISP listings system.

Finally, you can probably expect some subtle style changes around the website going forward. We want to continue making ISPreview more readable on mobile devices, albeit without adopting one of those scroll heavy and CPU intensive responsive designs.
 

Mark.J

Administrator
Staff member
ISPreview Team
05/07/2016

Hay all, long time no update.. busy job this etc.

Most of my plans for the site (except for content as that always takes precedence) were delayed a bit this year after the ASA announced their new advertising rules, which meant I had to figure out how best to re-do our ISP listings database and on top of that I also wanted to make some other improvements and upgrades to the same system. We started on this in March and everything finally went live at the end of May... FEW!

After that I needed to code fix one of our old content management systems, which wasn't quite working properly with PHP5.5 and this was finally completed last week. After that I also took the opportunity to upgrade the server to PHP5.6 and this created yet more problems that needed fixing, which I've now done. In-between doing all this we also set aside some time to move our older MySQL 5.x databases to the latest version (I got Keith to do that, cheers fella).

Various other changes, improvements and updates have also been made to the website since the last update, but most of those aren't worth a specific mention. We now have just one more thing to do, moving the server to new hardware :eek: .

I tend to upgrade the hardware every 3-4 years and it often creates new problems for awhile, but who knows.. maybe this time things will be different :). I've already started this process and with any luck you won't spot the downtime, but equally the site might go a bit wonky for a few days. I'm not going to give a precise ETA, but the final move will happen sometime over the next 7-14 days. In theory you’ll be able to spot the speed difference once it’s happened, although ISPr is already quite fast.

Once all these headaches are out of the way then I intend to concentrate on content for a few months, before returning to experimenting with new forum software and considering what best to do with our reviews system. Personally I think the reviews system needs replacing, but that's a very expensive and difficult task due to how the review content is stored. The easy solution would be to patch it up, but I'm not convinced that will be enough to meet my own expectations.

Back to work..
 

Mark.J

Administrator
Staff member
ISPreview Team
08/07/2016

The server has now been upgraded, although we still have a few process limit related tweaks to make in order to accommodate some of our more complicated systems. But otherwise everything appears to have gone smoothly. We'll see how it works under load later this morning.
 

Mark.J

Administrator
Staff member
ISPreview Team
15/12/2016

It's been a busy few months since the last update in August, most of which has been spent on "joyful" database updates and more server optimisation.

Over the past month I've also tweaked the website's style slightly to use a bigger default font (easier said than done as a lot of things break when you mess with a standard size) and be generally larger in content display, which should help to make the site more readable on both smaller screens (Tablet computers and bigger Smartphones) and higher resolution PC monitors.

We are looking to do further changes on font size and website scale in the future, but I've put that aside for now in order to concentrate on more immediate concerns. The big challenge and focus during 2017 is going to be a long-winded process of ensuring that all of our systems can work with and make good use of PHP7 (programming language framework for the site).

A number of our major systems, such as the CMS (content management - news/articles), ISP Listings and Forum either already support PHP7 or will shortly be upgraded. However the older systems do not and that means a lot of work will be needed to update old code to new and possibly, at an extreme, to even completely replace some systems. All of this is important because PHP5.6 support will stop in a couple of years and PHP7 offers a massive performance boost and we'd be crazy not to take advantage of that. ISPreview will be a lot faster when we move to PHP7.

Assuming we still have some spare time left once the PHP7 work is completed (always hard to give a firm ETA for these things and I'm allowing plenty of time) then I'll most likely look to make some other big changes, but it's too early to hint about that.

However one thing I can say is that we're looking at the prospect of adding a third category to our ISP listings for "ultrafast broadband" packages. At present I'm still ponding over how to define this, such as the question of whether to start it at 100Mbps+ (widely accepted definition) or 300Mbps+ (Ofcom's definition). I'm mindful that G.fast will also begin with a 160Mbps tier and a fair few FTTP ISPs have 100Mbps+ options, so it's a tricky one. In my mind "superfast" sort of covers the 24-100Mbps range, so ultrafast really needs to start at an even faster rate. I'll do some experiments before deciding.

Hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
 

Mark.J

Administrator
Staff member
ISPreview Team
01/03/2017

We're currently knee deep in our PHP7 prep work, but that's not the reason for this update. Instead I wanted to make you all aware that the server will at some point, between 6th and 8th March next week, go a little wonky. The reason for this is because we'll be upgrading the OS and Apache, as well as some other programming layers.

Ordinarily this sort of upgrade wouldn't case any problems, but there are a few security measures that will be broken during the upgrade and as a result you may see error 500 messages across parts of the site. In theory this should be an easy fix, but as we don't know exactly when the upgrade will occur then there's likely to be a few hours of disruption involved.

Sometime downtime will also occur during the upgrade as the server has to be disconnected from the web.
 

Mark.J

Administrator
Staff member
ISPreview Team
02/03/2017

In addition to the above, we're moving our server to a different data centre on 27th March (between 10pm and 6am) and during this time the site will probably go offline for a period of up to 4 hours because it's a physical move.
 

Mark.J

Administrator
Staff member
ISPreview Team
13/03/2017

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about an upgrade to the server OS and Apache that was due to take place between 6th and 8th March, which might cause some disruption on the site. We've had to delay that due to some unexpected problems during a trial run and I'll update again once a solution has been figured out.

This has no impact on the planned server move to a new data centre on 27th.
 
Last edited:

Mark.J

Administrator
Staff member
ISPreview Team
17/03/2017

Our server was upgraded yesterday so you might have noticed a couple of hours where the site was either offline or some systems didn't function properly. However I was able to solve most of the bugs and am now optimising for the new OS. So far so good.
 

Mark.J

Administrator
Staff member
ISPreview Team
27/03/2017

As stated before. Our server is being physically moved to a new datacentre tonight, which means a 4 hour downtime. Hopefully they won't drop it :crap: , but all being well it should be back online by 6am tomorrow. If not then you know they probably dropped it. Going to update my backups, just to be safe. However they will backup the server too before the move.

Usually these things go fine, it's an unplug and plug back in job, but you never know.
 

Mark.J

Administrator
Staff member
ISPreview Team
08/05/2017

A couple of important changes to note. Firstly, we've completed a two month long code update of the reader reviews system so that it will work correctly when we upgrade to PHP7 at some point this year. The new code is now live and so if you spot any bugs then do let us know, although we have tested the heck out of it :).

The second change is that I've created a basic mobile-only style and am currently live testing that on news articles. So if you visit a news item on your Smartphone then it will suddenly give you the mobile-only version, which can of course be disabled by telling your web browser to get the Desktop site instead.

At present we've only done the mobile style for phones and not desktop computers or tablets because the normal site already works well enough on those, without needing to create a miniature version.

The mobile-only style is still in development and I've got a fair bit of formatting tweaks to do yet and some content display bugs with dynamic output to fix. Once I've resolved those then the aim will be to deploy the mobile-only style across the rest of the site, albeit gradually. So for the time being it might be a bit jarring to jump from the desktop to mobile interface on a Smartphone but we're getting there.
 
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Mark.J

Administrator
Staff member
ISPreview Team
11/12/2017

It's been a fair few months since my last update and I thought I'd done a more recent one, but clearly not. So here's a quick re-cap of just some of the things that have happened since May 2017.

1. We upgraded to PHP7 and then jumped to PHP7.1 without any problems. This gave the site a nice speed boost and that made the effort very worthwhile. As I type this PHP7.2 has only been out for a week or two and so next spring we'll be looking to adopt that (at present it creates a few new bugs) and benefit from another performance boost, although the jump should be considerably easier than the move from PHP5.6 to PHP7.1 (that require a huge re-write of the existing review code).

2. I've moved the web server from unsecured HTTP to secure / encrypted (HTTPS) for all visitors.

3. Over the past few weeks I've started implementing our mobile friendly style across ISPreview, which will only show for those with Smartphones in portrait mode. However, we've yet to apply this to the forum and existing review system, as well as our older pre-2012 news CMS, due to some tedious complications and conflicts with the code. I'm currently debating whether to bother adapting it for them at all because we have new systems on the way.

4. I've begun using higher resolution images around the site for logos, news pictures and so forth in order to make the experience a bit better for those with higher res displays. This has been on-going for a few months now and you may have spotted the subtle change in quality. I’m also upscaling some older images but this is a long-winded process and remains on-going.

5. We've been working in-house to develop a bespoke review system, which I hope will eventually replace our existing one. The main body of work for this has now completed, although we've still got several features and security enhancements to do, as well as the need to code a complex import system for existing reviews, before it's ready to go public.

The aim of the new system is to be faster, more secure and most importantly of all.. simple to use without the need to register through our forum (the forum integration confuses a lot of people and is no longer a normal approach). I won't give an ETA for this yet because we've already been working on it for 8 months and I think it probably needs most of 2018 to finish.

6. We've already added the ASA's new requirement of 'Average Download Speed' to our existing ISP Listing system (fixed line providers), although at present the only ISP offering any data for this is Sky Broadband so most fields remain blank.

Otherwise that's just about everything. The main focus next year will be on completing development of the new review system and upgrading the server to support PHP7.2. I suspect we'll do the 7.2 work first so that we can use that to spot any new bugs while developing the review code too.

Have a Merry Christmas everybody! :)
 

Mark.J

Administrator
Staff member
ISPreview Team
04/01/2018

Just to so that I've used some of my spare time over Christmas and New Year to roughly adapt the existing Review and Forum system to a mobile-friendly style. The forum is a bit of a hack-job at the moment with wonky pagination (this may not be worth fixing before we replace everything) but it's now just about usable on a Smartphone. I've also started implementing it on the older news systems / archives and this work is currently on-going.
 

Mark.J

Administrator
Staff member
ISPreview Team
04/09/2018

Last month I quietly replaced our old reader ISP reviews system with the new one, which now has its own separate member database. This was done after we made sure to import all the reviews from our old system and any associated users, although for security reasons if you need to update your review then you'll first need to reset your password (only necessary if you've actually posted a review before, otherwise you might have to make a new account).

https://www.ispreview.co.uk/review/forgotPassword.php?o=1

The new system is now in its 'public beta' phase and as such some final features haven't yet been made available until we've polished off the code for them, but it is usable and has been simplified in order to make posting reviews much easier than before.

The main work is now completed (bug / security testing and import system design took a very long.. time) but we've still got to add a 'Right to Reply' feature for ISPs (currently we do this manually but the new system will automate it for ISP Reps) and user account management, among other smaller tweaks.

So after around 18-20 months of work the focus will soon shift to retiring our current vBulletin discussion forum software and replacing it with XenForo. I've already decided on the new theme for our forum upgrade but at present I've got some content work to finish before starting on that. The move to a new forum software will be fairly swift and I might well get it done before 2019, which is the current target. This will also enable us to move from PHP7.1 to 7.2, which is a little faster.
 

Mark.J

Administrator
Staff member
ISPreview Team
27/03/2019

It’s been awhile since I had the time to do one of these updates, so I should probably start with a little catch-up.

Since last time we’ve replaced the old vBulletin forum with the new XenForo one that you see before you today. After some initial teething issues, and optimisations for our server, it now all seems to be working quite well.

After completing that I then went on to make some changes to our ISP listings system (adding extra detail about technology types, network coverage etc.) and mostly focused on content creation until the end of 2018. Once that was completed we were able to upgrade the server to PHP v7.2, which resulted in another speed boost.

So far in 2019 my focus has mainly been on two primary tasks. Firstly, we’ve updated the front page of ISPreview with one that is both mobile and desktop friendly (every other page has been mobile friendly for a long time but the main index page was more complex to adapt and so I left it until last). I completed that last week.

Secondly, I’ve just completed the migration of our MySQL databases to a much more recent version, which luckily went without a hitch (thanks to our previous PHP code updates). The focus has now switched back to content for awhile, but after Easter I’ll start work on Phase 2 of our new reader review systems (extra features etc.) and an entirely new system that I can’t speak about just yet.

Aside from that we also plan to upgrade to the PHP 7.3 framework later this spring or summer (probably after the review system enhancements), which is likely to deliver another speed boost to the site.
 

Mark.J

Administrator
Staff member
ISPreview Team
10/05/2019

Just a small update to say that after a little work we moved to PHP7.3 last week, which has given the site another small speed boost. The focus now will switch to updating site sections / ISP listings with recent industry changes, before returning to the next batch of development work.
 
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